I had been struggling with my health for a few years prior to diagnosis. My doctor sent me down various paths none of which ever seemed to pin down my symptoms or prove very effective.
One consultant suggested an operation on both of my feet to investigate the problem which luckily I declined! Once diagnosed I felt relief initially that I hadn't been imagining the symptoms but then devastation when I realised the possibility of being disabled in the future.
However, I quickly learned that Multiple Sclerosis could be life limiting and not life threatening and I decided to push the limits as far as I could...
Within days of my diagnosis I contacted my local MS Society and a lovely lady arranged to see me immediately. She was really helpful and reassured me that things may not be as bleak as I imagined. MS Ireland continues to be extremely supportive.
Four weeks after my diagnosis I came across Professor George Jelinek's book Taking Control of MS when I was searching the net for a book that might help me come to terms with my diagnosis. I ordered it from Australia.
It was the start of feeling that it wasn't all doom and gloom after a diagnosis and there was something I could do to help myself. I started taking the supplements recommended immediately.
The diet I found very difficult as I was addicted to chocolate and also the Irish diet is very high in meat and dairy consumption. I didn't find the meditation easy either. I continued with my exercise regime which involved swimming, walking and the gym.
I tried the diet many times and stuck to it for short periods but because of my chocolate addiction I gave up. I registered on the OMS website and ordered the updated book by Professor Jelinek Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis.
It was full of positivity and useful information. It gave me great hope of recovering. I felt if I got the opportunity to attend a retreat it would give me the incentive I needed to commit to the program 100%. I knew what I needed to do but just couldn't motivate myself to actually do it.
Attending the OMS Retreat
In February of this year I received an email from the OMS team in the UK announcing details of five new OMS retreats for 2015 and couldn't believe it when I saw they were holding one in Ireland. I had been unsuccessful last year in gaining a place on the retreat at Ammerdown UK. I also tried to book for the UK retreat being held in July this year without success. So it was really was a case of third time lucky. I booked the Irish retreat immediately and was so excited to secure a place.
The retreat in Ireland was over two days and was held at the Emmaus Centre, Swords, Co. Dublin on March 23-24th. The location was great as it was easily accessible by air, train, taxi and bus and the participants came from all over Ireland and England.
It was located in a very quiet area and was like an oasis on the outskirts of Ireland's capital city. The centre was ideal, with easy access for everybody and the chef presented all OMS friendly food which was delicious.
It opened our eyes to the wonderful healthy and tasty food suitable for the OMS diet. The cost, which was £220/€330, was kept to an absolute minimum by OMS charity which is a not for profit organisation.
I would highly recommend attending a retreat. It is definitely well worth it. The facilitators for our retreat were Dr. Keryn Taylor and Phil Startin and Gary McMahon the CEO of OMS was there to help us too.
We didn't need to worry about any special requirements during the retreat as these were well taken care of. Keryn was diagnosed with MS and has made a full recovery thanks to her determination and commitment to the OMS program.
Her courageous story is featured in the book Recovering from Multiple Sclerosis by George Jelinek and Karen Law. Keryn and Phil were very inspiring and living proof that the OMS program works. Following a warm welcome from Keryn, Phil and Gary to our group we all introduced ourselves. Within a short time we felt very comfortable with each other and shared our MS journeys so far including our experiences of the OMS program.
This peer support was fantastic and we all bonded very well over the two days. We all felt this support was a big factor on the retreat and we have made lifelong friendships and support as a result.
A few of us were members of the Irish 'Whatever it Takes' Facebook page set up by Nicola Corbett with permission from the OMS team. (Nicola attended an Australian OMS retreat in 2014). It was lovely to finally meet up with our 'OMS friends'. I had met Nicola through the OMS forum.
The OMS team organised a new Facebook page and 'Google groups' for our Dublin 2015 group, which was a great idea. Phil explained what mindfulness meditation is and how effective it is for people with MS.
It is a great help in reducing stress. It is something that needs practice to perfect to get real benefits from doing it. It was recommended to meditate daily. We had many meditation sessions throughout the retreat. Keryn started her presentation giving us a great insight into what MS is and how it affects people.
One thing she mentioned was how the “cells absorb the bad fats we eat” and particularly affect people with MS. This really hit home to me because of my large intake of bad fats despite eating lots of fruit and vegetables and it was a defining moment for me to remove all bad fats from my diet, and to have this happen in the first hour of the retreat was just a taste of things to come over the two days.
OMS 7 Step Recovery Program
Food and the OMS diet were really well covered. We learned in great detail what foods to eat and what foods to avoid and had a brilliant question and answer session.
In advance of the retreat I would have thought the diet was somewhat restrictive eliminating meat, dairy and bad saturated fats from our diet however we got great recipes and ideas at the retreat and it wasn't so daunting facing home and converting 100% to the OMS diet.
The importance of exercise for people with MS was another subject which was well covered and we had exercise sessions throughout the retreat. Sunlight and Vitamin D are very important to people with MS. Supplementation is highly recommended for those of us living in areas with low levels of sunshine.
We were advised to have our Vitamin D3 tested however that can be problematic here in Ireland as it is not a routine blood test. I was lucky to have my levels tested last year and am delighted to say they are very high after supplementing for almost four years since diagnosis.
Daily supplementation of organic cold pressed flaxseed oil was also recommended as a great way of boosting our Omega 3 intake and part of the program. We had great discussions on this supplementation. Keryn discussed in detail medications available to people with MS.
This was very informative. We were given information on the wonderful work of Professor Jelinek’s research, and his fantastic research team.
We also received handouts on 'OMS Pillars References' containing full details of all the reference books, research papers, websites on mindfulness, food, exercise, medication, Vitamin D, Omega three and other relevant references.
We had a beautiful and very special closing ceremony. It was very spiritual and moving which we all loved. It was the perfect finish to an amazing two days.
It is difficult to describe it but I never experienced anything like it. I went home very excited and with real hope that overcoming multiple sclerosis is possible.
I left the retreat with an iron will and a determination to follow the OMS program fully. I am thrilled that five weeks after the retreat I am totally following the program.
I am enjoying the diet and experimenting with new recipes. I have completely lost the chocolate and sugar cravings which I can't believe. I have amazing energy which feels fantastic.
I looked forward to attending this retreat with great anticipation and I have to say it completely surpassed all my expectations. It was a life changing experience.
I am trying to spread the word on the benefits of the OMS program. I even gave my neurologist a copy of Professor Jelinek’s book last year and am looking forward to hearing his opinions on my next visit.
The retreat was really well organised and thank you to all the OMS team working behind the scenes. Thank you to Professor George Jelinek and the wonderful researchers in Australia for their amazing work and giving us all real hope for a very healthy and happy future.
Thank you to Keryn, Phil and Gary for coming to Dublin to impart their knowledge and do an amazing job of motivating us to commit to the fantastic OMS program.
I would like to thank all of the other participants for sharing their own experiences and for their continued support. I learned a lot from you all. You are a brilliant group.